The Shabbaton

LAUREN KALLMEYER

On Friday November 30 2015, 138 kids from both Moriah and Masada, as well as Madrichim and staff all began their IST journey. 

With the excitement of leaving in just under two weeks we all got together for an amazing Shabbaton where all the students got to meet each other and take part in amazing programs throughout the two days. We participated in programs that exposed us and prepared us for the journey ahead of us. Upon arriving we discovered our family groups through an interactive activity. The excitement was palpable as everyone was running around, buzzing with enthusiasm upon discovering who was in our family groups. We then went to a beautiful Shule service where we all brought in Shabbat together, followed by a delicious dinner. Then we all went off into groups for a program showing us all the different food rations in the ghettos and concentration camps. It was completely eye- opening to see how little the people living in the time of the Holocaust were given to eat, especially after us having such a lovely dinner. Then we all joined together again for an insane Tisch where we heard different stories from our teachers and Madrichim whilst we sang some of our favourite songs. 

The next day included Shachrit, Kiddush, a delicious lunch and then more programs. In the first program, we were all together in a room and one by one our Madrichim stood up and started to share with us Holocaust stories, until all of them were speaking at the same time. The impact of all their voices sharing just a couple of the millions of stories really hit home for all of us, and opened our eyes to some of the things we might be exposed to in Poland. We were then each given a name of someone who experienced tragedy in the Holocaust and collected a piece of paper that had the story of our person. We then went into our family groups and shared our stories with the rest of the group. We discussed how many stories there are that we will never be able to hear and never be able to know, and it was truly saddening to try and grasp the extent of the loss that our people experienced. Our last program was one about Israel and media bias, something that we are seeing every single day at the moment. We discussed how we can tackle the media’s representation of Israel, whether it be through speaking up in real life or on social media. 

With a lot of time to meet one another and start life-time friendships we had Seudat Shlishit, the final meal of an incredible Shabbat. We then came together for an inspiring Havdalah service that really ended off our first of seven Shabbatot together on an absolute high. 

The next morning we came back to school, but this time with our parents to have one final meeting before our departure. We were privileged enough to hear from Olga Horak who shared her story of survival with us. We all sat in awe as we listened to everything that Olga endured, and were inspired by her positive and optimistic approach to life despite all that she had been through and lost. After hearing her incredible story we received our IST bags and the reality finally began to kick in- we were leaving in two weeks!!! 

This weekend was an amazing time to get to know one another and to begin to form bonds with people we may have met for the first time or people we may not be as close to but are hoping to form closer friendships with over the IST journey. On this shabbaton alone we created so many memories, and to know that we were going to be spending six weeks with all these amazing people was truly exhilarating. 

I can't wait to join 150 other students, teachers and Madrichim in a journey of a life-time and make memories that will last me the rest of my life. 20160 minutes, 336 hours, 14 days, 2 weeks!

Poland Day 1: Mia Levin